JOINT BASE CHARLESTON S.C. –
The 437th Airlift Wing’s mission is to provide safe, precise reliable airlift anytime, anywhere. The wing has one of the largest fleets of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in the Air Force and contributes to a significant portion of Air Mobility Command’s missions.
The 16th Airlift Squadron supports this mission by developing leaders, caring for families, projecting power and delivering hope.
“The C-17 mission is everything from combat airlift and combat airdrop to humanitarian relief, aeromedical evacuation, presidential support and special operations,” said Lt. Col. Alex Pelbath, 16th AS commander. “You can imagine we support just about every DoD entity there is.”
Although COVID-19 has slowed the operations tempo the 16th AS has been able to continue conducting operations, Pelbath mentioned. The 16th AS conducted a mission to Aviano Air Base, Italy March 19, 2020, to pick up 500,000 COVID-19 test kits and bring them to Memphis, Tennessee to be distributed to medical facilities across the United States. They also have members at Ramstein Air Base to support aeromedical evacuation crews when needed.
“We still have people flying and we're still training,” said Pelbath. “We have crews on the road right now. We just don't have as many as we had before. We are also teleworking when possible; unless people are flying or need to be in the squadron, they are at home teleworking.”
Teleworking has not stopped daily interactions between the 16th AS Lions. They hold a call every day for members who are teleworking to touch base with them and also have a commander’s call every Thursday through Zoom.
“We're trying to learn from this experience and adapt to become better,” said Pelbath. “Our commander’s calls have had more participation than ever because of technology. One of the positives coming out of this is learning how to better reach people in a dynamic environment since we have C-17s and crews all around the world conducting normal operations.”
In addition to daily check-ins and weekly commander’s calls, the 16th has also held numerous virtual morale activities including video game competitions, trivia nights and a virtual happy hour for key spouses.
“We've had hundreds of people participating,” said Capt. Sofia Schmidt, 16th AS Operations Support Flight assistant flight commander. “Not just our Airmen but also their families have been participating. We've also tried to brainstorm and see how our squadron could help others in the Charleston community as well.”
Airman 1st Class Tyrell Brown, a squadron scheduler assigned to the 16th AS, partnered with local branches of companies in the Charleston area and 16th AS booster club to donate 100 pizzas and 50 cases of beverages to healthcare workers at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Whether delivering humanitarian aid, providing aeromedical evacuation support or delivering pizzas to healthcare workers, the 16th AS continues to develop leaders, carie for families, project power and deliver hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The wing’s vision statement is ‘When it matters most...Ready,’” said Pelbath. “So when America needs us, we’ll be ready.”